Secret Agent Man

Dear Daniel,

Before I go anywhere else, it’s probably an idea to admit the following and then move on.

Considering you’re stupidly famous, it is possible you’re not aware that some husbands and wives often have conversations where it is implied that should circumstances allow, and the seemingly unattainable celebrity you lust/desire/dream about were ever available for a night of commitment-free passion, you’d be granted a free pass from your spouse with no questions asked. My List, such as it is, remains fairly short, and by now you’ve guessed what’s coming. For quite a while, you used to sit at the top. However, sometime between the filming of ‘Quantum of Solace’ and ‘Skyfall’ that all changed. On considered reflection I suspect the precise shift occurred about six to nine hours after I saw Bond 23 for the first time on DVD. I was unwell, and that afternoon was a turning point for a lot of personal expectation, including a half finished attempt at redefining the Bond genre in my own mind.

In summary? You were once an object of desire, but now have become something far more significant. With the embarrassing shit out of the way? Time to explain why I’m really writing.


I’d wanted Julian McMahon as Bond when your predecessor was effectively removed from the frame at the start of the century. I’ll grant there were excessively selfish reasons for this choice, but when you look at who else was up for the job, I think giving it to an Australian would not have been too bad a shout. I’ve been a dedicated fan of Bond since ‘Goldfinger’, fell in love with Roger Moore in the 70’s and promptly concluded that Connery was never my type. There was, I’ll freely admit, a brief flirtation with Timothy Dalton, but like so many other people I considered Pierce Brosnan the logical and natural choice to bring everyone back to the right point, where men wanted to be 007 and women needed to sleep with him, no questions asked. The character, like it or not, remained the fictional owner of a guaranteed spot on the Spousal Pass card. That is until you came along, and changed Bond into something better.

It wasn’t just the reboot of the franchise that caused this to happen, or the change in narrative direction. What you gave the agent from ‘Casino Royale’ onwards was something that had not previously existed with any incarnation of the character: fallibility. I’ll grant you, I totally understand why Barbara Broccoli gave you the nod after ‘Layer Cake.’ When you emerged from the sea in Barbados as Ursula Andress did in ‘Dr No’… honestly, you’d have to be dead not to get that you were being presented as a Bond meant to attract both sexes, but for vastly different reasons, and it worked until this version of the plot arc was finally exhausted. Once you were seen to move past Vesper Lynd’s death in ‘SPECTRE’, there was nowhere else left to go, and shoving Bond off into the sunset with a woman half his age is probably the way a lot of men would ideally choose to retire.

In all the times between, you gave Bond a set of balls he’d never owned before.


That’s no mean feat for a genre that made its name on a hero whose whole existence was inextricably bound with misogyny. It was a label I sense that never really sat well with your incarnation either, and that alone makes all the films you leave behind vastly superior to pretty much everything Moore did after ‘Live and Let Die’ and makes Connery’s efforts post ‘You only Live Twice’ look frankly a bit dodgy. It’s ironic therefore you have so much in common with the guy nobody ever remembers in the line-up: George Lazenby. There’s a 007 who gets the girl at the end and has her snatched from him in perhaps the cruellest way possible, and it is easy to see how echoes of Diana Rigg’s immensely strong and equal to Bond in all ways portrayal of the Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo appears in Lynd and later Camille Montes.

There’s flashes of that strength in the 90’s Bond girls, undoubtedly, but honestly it takes a very long time after ‘Goldfinger’ before there is anybody who is credibly written as a genuine counter to Bond. Wei Lin in ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ is probably the only time for me that a sense of female equality in terms of both physical and mental prowess is presented, and that’s yet to be bettered even by Eve Moneypenny in the current iteration… mostly because of that decision to stick her behind a desk at the end of ‘Skyfall.’ What your Bond has done, undoubtedly, is re-establish the canon, but equality’s still at the stage it was in the late 1990’s. We know the Chinese have agents in service, but not the Brits. Where’s the believable, confident and physically capable equal? Yeah, I know: if we had that, as one of my friends pointed out recently I’d be watching ‘Mission Impossible.’ You work alone, and it’s been that way since the late 1950’s.

Perhaps everybody could do with moving that agenda on as a matter of urgency.


If I were a betting woman, having seen the roles you’ve lined up post ‘SPECTRE’, I’d wager you’re pretty fed up of 007, and I really can’t say I blame you one iota. The last two minutes of that movie will become the epitaph to a role that, however diverse and well-acted, is likely to haunt you for the rest of your professional career, and if this were me I’d go all out to amend that. The concept of Bond is going to be extremely hard to reboot regardless: then you’ll need the right person up front to head it, and looking at the raft of ‘young’ talent on offer, honestly, nobody will do it as well as you did, because they’ll be living a lie you were the last person to successfully dispel. Maybe, after 50 years, it is finally time to call it a day for the lone wolf. It’s no wonder Eon don’t want to announce Bond 25 for a while yet.

I should point out at this juncture that I think I’m also probably done with 007 for good. Nobody’s gonna do the character the justice you’ve left as the benchmark, or equal that sense of underlying discomfort given to a character who was willing to give up everything and never allowed a chance to be happy. He just went back to the job, in the end realising that Mallory was right in ‘Skyfall’ and he should have stayed dead. The best way to leave, undoubtedly, was when Bond was on top. I’m really looking forward to seeing how you shape up in ‘Purity’ by the way: the book has a great deal of potential and in the post-Obama, internet leak/Russian hacked world we now inhabit, it could make a lot of people think. I’m also wishing I’d been in New York to see you play Iago, because I’m also fairly confident you’d have imbued that character with the true understated menace he deserves.

However, there is one other thing I should thank you for before I go, and it has nothing to do with your professional career. Without you, I would never have given Radiohead the time of day, but to know they were a band you loved was a subtle poke to my own brain to expand horizons and listen to new things. Without doubt, ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ is now one of my favourite albums of the last ten years. Then there’s the small matter of inspiring me to write two full-length fan fictions based around the best 007 that’s ever been stuck on celluloid… which in turn has opened a door to a much larger Universe. The confidence and abilities I’ve honed in those two pieces is serving me well as I produce a novel I’m both proud and pleased with. I’m well aware of how much both those things were influenced by a character I’m betting you’d rather I shut up about now, so I will.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, I get that whole ‘fuck off, leave me alone, I’d like my privacy’ stuff more than I suspect most will. It’s not a fault, but a strength in character. Bond is the job, and it’s not you. The sooner more people realise this in the World, the better life will be for everybody, and maybe you can go have a drink from time to time in peace.

Thank you for making me a better person, regardless of the role.


PS: I’m still jealous you got to park your arse on a DB10. There, I said it.

DEFAULT :: Part Forty-Five

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Life has become a series of random moments with transportation as the constant: Bond likes to imagine them set to music, as if this were some sweeping drama in which he is simply an extra and never the lead. Today that means Ride of the Valkyries as this RAF Merlin helicopter skirts a still sleeping Thai coastline, heading to a hastily-rescheduled debriefing on HMS Ocean. Felix looks decidedly queasy opposite, holding far too tightly to the support straps, while 007 is the undisputed owner of controlled yet dismissive languor. He hates flying with a passion, mostly because in 90% of cases he’s not the one behind the stick. If he pushes the point and can sit up front, it becomes a tolerable distraction. The desire to do so has slowly begun to rise, as that allows total control and no-one else in the equation. Next time, he’ll pull rank and do just that.

Things get considerably more bearable when he spies Moneypenny in McQueen on the deck of the carrier, Charlie LaCroix’s nondescript khaki shorts plus Hawaiian shirt amazingly not an utter fashion disaster. Bond is smiling despite himself, as realisation dawns there’s pleasure seeing them both, that this means after refuelling and meetings there’ll be conversation and catchup on the way to their final rendezvous. Travelling with both will be good for everyone.

Stepping out of the Merlin, Moneypenny salutes as is correct, because he outranks her. It’s become something of a standing joke between them, and Bond can’t help but grin as formal becomes a hug that’s been sorely missed.

‘At ease, Moneypenny and who told Charlie that shirt was a good idea?’

‘I did. I bought it for him because he could do with expanding his horizons. He’s not the only one.’

Eve stares at Bond with a look he’s fairly certain isn’t genuine contempt, sudden wish there was something other than the uniform to fall back on in such situations.

‘Don’t let women dress you, 009, it’ll undoubtedly end in tears.’

‘You’re better attired than anyone I know, 007, I think maybe you’re setting the standard too high for the rest of us.’

Charlie’s handshake gets more confident with each meeting and Bond’s watching Felix reacquainting himself with solid ground and 003, more pleasure at both than he’d expect from an ex CIA operative. These people were far more emotional and distinct than 007 had ever realised: had it always been this way? At what point had this job stopped being simply a means to an end? Perhaps they weren’t the problem: maybe he’d never taken the time to notice their frailties before. When he thinks about how pale and tense Ronni had seemed even over a camera the night before…


Eve is staring, head tipped, and this is the moment to share specifically edited news of his conversation over the uplink with the group.

‘I spoke to Veronica last night.’

At the use of her name Charlie is immediately alert: Bond understands that he’ll be quizzed by various people on what took place. It is effortless to remove emotion from the situation, but her fragility bothers him, even in the heat of early morning. Waking alone never used to be an issue, but now there’s a preferable alternative, that ought to be the default.

‘How’s 004 doing?’

‘Not well. She’s struggling mentally, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about her welfare. Now we know where Christian is heading, I’m going to suggest to London they let her and Q come home.’

‘I’ll happily second that, we really need them both back with us, assuming the plan now is to go for Spectre’s throat. Oh, and for the record? You’re really lucky to have Ronni here to save your ass. I promised her I’d tell you that and I have, and now I need more caffeine to get through Tanner’s debrief than I suspect this boat’s currently carrying.’

Taking the luggage without a word, Leiter’s already steering LaCroix away, smile reminding that payment remains due for standing ‘guard’ the night before. The noise of the Carrier’s only brief distraction: Eve takes his hand, pulling 007 away from activity plus the previous evening’s concerns, back to their moment.

‘She’s going to be fine, and we’ll all support the move to push for her return. You said it yourself, she’s stronger than all of us. Ronni will cope, and be back before you know it.’

‘I never really considered the consequences of this life before until it got taken out of my hands. I hate not being able to help her.’

‘But you do, without even realising. Without you, she’s just not complete. That’s why this relationship works so well.’

Bond wants to ask at what point his life became public property, but already knows the answer. What is required now is free time and privacy, and neither will be forthcoming in the immediate future. However he is an expert at patience, and will wait, doing his utmost to get Ronni in from the field as soon as is conceivably possible.

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Everything related to James Bond (007) belongs to Eon Productions and Danjaq LLC, except the bits in here that are mine and I made up. I get how this works.

DEFAULT :: Part Forty-Three

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She stares, digesting the truth probably only thought and not spoken out loud until now.

‘What happens then?’

‘That depends a lot on you.’

‘It does?’

‘I need you in the same room before making those kind of choices seriously.’

Her heart is beating so fast, sudden adrenaline rush that is impossible to ignore. This isn’t passion, something more: inevitably at the revelation brain presents a counter, as it has every time before. You don’t need a happy ending to do this job. A man’s love is not required to make you complete. Veronica is worthwhile and relevant without either. Except this time, Ronni stares at the man half a world away and grasps that this is no longer the case.

Veronica can also be worthwhile, relevant and care.

Her hand goes to the screen, touching him as he returns her gesture, staring with the realisation that whatever happens now, this is no longer just business. Neither is there pleasure after the fact, but before, and that created something new and different, frightening in a moment alone than anything else felt in an entire lifetime.

Her desire to embrace the truth is suddenly inescapable, and so Veronica gives in.

‘When the uplink kicked in and you were mid… what were you thinking -‘

‘That night after your first successful mission. In my flat.’

‘The hallway?’

‘No, sofa.’

Their shared moment flares to consume: warmth of hands on naked back, him still wearing the crisp white work shirt, but naked from the waist downwards. He’d collected her from Heathrow and they’d fucked up against the front door, quick and dirty, and now he wanted to enjoy her at leisure. Ronni’s eyes close, arousal tasted fresh and sweet, watching mouth moving from one breast to the other, tip of tongue flicking spikes of pleasure straight into her sex. As she had ground down he’d thrusted up and body shudders uncontrollably with the memory, need overwhelming and finally unrestrained.


‘Last night I had to lie to a stranger, and as I fucked him all I wanted was you. I can’t escape this, and don’t want to. Please just help me feel alive again. Please.

This wasn’t how she’d expected anything to play out: he’d be the one to chance his arm and now she was pleading, desperation driving, tiredness and emotional stress overflowing and the tears are bitter, painful horror. What is required is out of her reach, beyond ability, and she cannot stop shaking as arms surround her that aren’t his, yet again she imagines they are. Finally the tears stop and there are two men staring, concern from both all too obvious.

‘Q, what are you doing?’

‘I was working, waiting for an algorithm, I heard you crying and I needed to make it stop. Bond, I hope you don’t object to my intrusion?’

‘Not at all, Q.’

‘I… wasn’t expecting this to-‘

‘Ronni, 007 knows what you most desperately need, and I suspect you do too. I’m going to consider what happens from here on in as essential field work, and that you both require a particular form of relaxation off the clock. I’ll look the other way, both literally and metaphorically, knowing not only can I handle a Baretta with some confidence, but that I’m really not expecting any disturbances tonight. However, to make you feel better I’m going to go outside and stand guard until I know your uplink’s expired.’

The gesture is oddly comforting, knowing she’s not responsible at this point brings a relief that comes as a surprise in Ronni’s mind. Looking to Bond, there remains concern that she may not be the only person who’d require guarding.

‘Are you likely to be disturbed, James?’

‘If it helps I can ask Felix to stand outside my door. He’ll love that.’

‘He’d do that for you?’

‘You know, knowing him as I do, all he’ll need to know is that you require the reassurance.’

Both men are gone and Ronni’s suddenly alone, shedding clothing without a thought, knowing she’d come close to an emotional overload. Once what had happened with Marc was negated, it would be easier to move on, and were this London, that’s what she and 007 would do. There wouldn’t need to be sessions with Gregory, or a long drawn-up report on what had transpired. She knew how to be stronger, and that was with James inside her. There is a genuine laugh at the double-entendre despite the situation, and undoubted understanding she wanted to go home. Not for the dirt and noise in London, or the comfort of her own bed. She needs James wrapped around her for longer than the downtime between missions.

Like it or not, she‘d let him into a willing heart without a fight.

Bond returns to camera, this time dropping the towel at the side of the bed, and the room becomes undoubtedly warmer.

‘I told Felix the utter truth, and once he stopped laughing was surprisingly willing to oblige. You can check when we see you in Paris. That’s where Christian’s heading, and where we’ll finish this together. I know Q’s done with Beam’s data, you don’t need to be dead any more. They’re going to bring you back. I’ll make sure of it.’

She unclips her bra and lets breasts fall free, body finally naked and relaxed, and Bond doesn’t stare, instead his eyes close. There is a shift closer to the camera, whisper to her mind.

‘Nobody touches you here except me. No-one will ever hurt you while I’m this close. I promise.’

Leaning back she‘s imagining his hands tracing patterns across stomach, back in the Pimlico flat that night she’d confronted him over Maddy. Their kiss had been so strong and passionate it ignites as fuel, means to tie disparate moments together, convenient montage to increase arousal in her brain. The many moments Bond had treated with respect at the Barracks, augmented with visual highlights carried across the globe. The morning she’d watched him shower for five minutes without a thought and couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day. The Paul Smith tuxedo which made him look almost edible. Then there is a rapid replay of their couplings: at his flat, two days at hers after the first round of Skyfall clean-up, that weekend in early Octoberstanding in her bedroom, wearing just his dress shirt, watching James stare with desire that was inescapable and frankly addictive.

‘I didn’t realise how much I missed you until you’d gone. I should have made you stay, never let you go.’

The voice whispers from the laptop but he’s in her head, standing with hand on stomach, that first night they joined. Her preference is being fucked from behind, slow and measured, until the inside of her body screams, and that’s what‘s now imagined. It’s not her fingers manipulating, arms bending willing body across the back of his sofa, thrusting and rubbing, tender rhythm of need that takes an already tense body to new levels of sensitivity. The taste of diesel finally vanishes, replaced by whiskey, mouth pushed into hers, kiss blossoming into sensation now desperately craved.

It has been a very long time since an orgasm happened without electronic aid but she’s very close as body begins to shudder, internal spasm and external fire colliding, losing ability to remain silent as desperate gasps echo around the dense stone walls, hearing Bond cry out before a sudden burst of electronic noise. As her orgasm fades, Ronni grasps the uplink has gone, satellite inexorable in its movement across the Earth, and she’s laughing at the ridiculousness of the life she’d wanted so badly for so long.

As the adrenaline quietly dissipates, sleep embraces a body beyond exhausted.

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Everything related to James Bond (007) belongs to Eon Productions and Danjaq LLC, except the bits in here that are mine and I made up. I get how this works.

DEFAULT :: Part Forty-Two

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As the laptop’s clock crawls towards 22.00, 004 sits alone, watching the uplink software refresh every fifteen seconds and wondering how 007 has been, uncertain of how this moment might play out. She’s certainly not expecting the satellite’s transmission to kick in early: as protocols establish a connection there is sound from the inbuilt speakers that causes the most arousing of double takes. About to check the connection, uncertain at what’s being heard, picture abruptly resolves as audio makes perfect sense. The reason for both becomes immediately and amusingly apparent, and all Ronni can do is stare in disbelief.

Bond’s got bored waiting, and is very much involved in a more creative way of wasting time.

The fact she’s caught him in flagrante is a surprise too glorious to interrupt, even if his position to camera doesn’t give a totally unimpeded view. The soundtrack is enough to make her entire body liquefy in short order, but this moment’s all too brief. His gasp at orgasm tells the story: he’s done, probably the perfect moment to announce her presence.

‘Can I assume you’re finished?’

There’s panic from bedside as Bond registers the webcam is on, before losing balance completely, vanishing from sight with a thump. Ronni’s laughing, despite herself, embarrassment and pleasure combined as he clearly scrabbles off camera for composure before hitting something against furniture with a thump, emitting a loud ‘FUCK.’ Finally there’s a response, ignominy apparent from thousands of miles away.

‘Can I assume you found my efforts entertaining?’

‘You didn’t know the line was live, did you?’

‘I wasn’t really concentrating on the laptop.’

Finally he appears, towel hastily wrapped around midriff, and Ronni knows they’ve crossed a previously untrodden path. Masturbation could well be considered as recreationally acceptable for a 00 agent, but hardly activity you’d report back to London whilst undercover. She has to ask though, if only to prolong the torture a little longer.

‘You’ve never done that for an audience, have you?’

‘I wasn’t aware I was then, but I’m assuming you saw everything?’

‘There was enough context, imagination did the rest.’

‘This is not how I expected this exchange to begin.’

‘We both enjoyed it, that’s all that matters.’

Staring at the man he looks far better than expected, mostly because Bond’s in control, freshly showered and on a real bed. Ronni wishes she could will herself through the ether just for those luxuries, quite apart from the company.

‘I’m sorry, I’m not at my best right now.’

‘I don’t know, you look amazing for a woman who’s been dead nearly two months.’

‘I’m glad you knew the truth.’

‘As am I, having to spin that lie with conviction was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.’

‘I saw the news reports, Q played me the funeral. You’re a very credible actor.’

‘Tanner wanted to make sure we didn’t give Spectre even the thought that you might both still be alive. If we did…’

‘Did you write my obituary?’

‘That was Moneypenny’s job. It was outstanding. Words have never been my forte, I’m a deeds man.’

‘Yes, you are.’

‘Happy Birthday, Veronica. You can have that opening five minutes as an extra gift.’

They can both laugh, while the silence that follows is comfort and reassurance. Ronni sits, staring at him, grateful he’s capable and active. If that wasn’t true MI6 would not have sent him after his ex-girlfriend’s half brother, and that means that she can probably broach the subject without overly worrying over consequence.

‘When did you know Maddy was a fraud?’

‘The morning before the Stag night. I’d had my suspicions, that was when I was certain. I should have told you myself and not left it to M.’

‘You never have to apologise to me, really you don’t.’

‘That’s not true. I was selfish and rude at the restaurant, neither are ever warranted. I missed you. I still do.’

The simplicity of his admission is a surprise, and Ronni’s impressed her body’s continuing to be aroused, but there it is, as he leans back on the edge of the bed, inviting her gaze. Leaner than she remembers, there is undoubtedly more definition to muscles apparent even on camera, and only then does it register that he might be pushing himself again to make a point.

‘There are a lot of things I should have said to you before all of this happened, but only one is really important. When I was recovering after you saved me, there was a lot of time to think. After we first met I couldn’t compromise your position, even when I wanted to. This job doesn’t normally give you the luxury of getting to know your lovers. Most of the time you’re forced into action by circumstance. With the exception of Moneypenny, who I have never slept with, I now understand you are the only other female friend that’s ever mattered. I think I’m more scared of losing that than of anything else in my life.’

‘I promise I won’t go anywhere, you have my word. When Q stuck us together for my last assignment before I became a 00, I think he made a mistake.’


‘I always thought I’d never need anyone to celebrate with. I’d assumed this job was about being alone, but now I know I’m wrong. I can do it on my own, but it doesn’t make me happy.’

‘What does?’

‘Having you to do it with. Knowing someone truly understands.’

The honestly is brutal and necessary, providing immediate relief. This is not a conventional relationship by any means or definition, but that’s what they have. The tears fall without a thought and she just wipes them away, watching him stare with the same vulnerability recalled when positions were reversed, the day her predecessor and his mentor were buried.

‘Yes, our employer thought of everything, made the whole dance both rational and acceptable. Friendship plus. I hear Q even made a briefing.’

‘He loves to use up to date metrics, is brilliant and caring in the field and undoubtedly the best handler I’ve ever known. You’d be proud.’

‘His heart and commitment have never been in question. I wasn’t sure how to deal with him until he turned up unannounced in Austria. We need more agents like you both and no more like me.’

‘Does that mean you’re really done?’

‘If I survive? Absolutely done.’

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Everything related to James Bond (007) belongs to Eon Productions and Danjaq LLC, except the bits in here that are mine and I made up. I get how this works.

DEFAULT :: Part Forty-One

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Ronni stares, not able to comprehend what Q is suggesting, and this disbelief must be apparent because the man gets up, going to retrieve a laptop which must have been liberated from Bulgari’s compound. Obviously prepared for this eventuality, Andrew comes to sit beside her.

‘I did wonder if you’d grasp the significance of what’s happened since our enforced extraction from the real world. I’ve been able to keep up to date with progress as I’ve worked, but you’ve had little or no exposure to what I’ve seen. I think now however, this is the moment to change that. Let me show you what’s been going on since we died.’

Q’s skill with a computer does not just cover the technical: as she’s seen at the Barracks, it also includes an innate ability to use skills to tell stories using the vastness of media the Internet presents. On the screen is constructed a timeline, begun at the moment of the explosion in Venice: Italian authorities denouncing Spectre publicly, high-profile arrests of leading mob bosses, prompting French and German governments to follow suit. There’s the Prime Minister, visibly upset, attacking Spectre by name in an address at the United Nations, vowing that the British people would never be shattered by ‘maniacs, lunatics and fanatical power-crazed warmongers.’ Then there is the funeral, and Ronni has to struggle to remain impassive as she watches Bond gunned down in such public view. MI6 use the moment as their spark, urging the rest of the World to accept the existence of Spectre and to join their fight to eradicate the organisation once and for all.

It is M however who moves her to tears, speech to awaiting press as he flies to France to consult with security services, a man who blames the death of his predecessor on the criminal organisation with an anger she’s never encountered before. Then there is the quiet and brutal promise that ‘nothing will be compromised to ensure that the man in charge is located and then bought to justice.’ Overnight, Christian Swann becomes as notorious a criminal as the World had seen: when the US President cancels her vacation forty eight hours after M’s speech to pledge support to the UK’s efforts, the entire landscape irrevocably changes. Q’s pride that he was part of the process is apparent even without the evidence to support it, but that doesn’t stop him making the point.

‘You’ll note that this shift from the US was in direct response to the data I provided London on key Spectre operatives within the President’s own party, the NRA and number of major US Pharmaceutical companies. Once they realised how dangerous the potential was for chaos amongst the faithful? A female Republican Commander in Chief has enough to worry about without being divided and conquered from within.’

‘It was hard enough for her to get there to begin with. I’d understand the desire to throw weight behind anyone wanting to remove corruption from anywhere.’

‘Getting the Americans to admit anything has never been easy, 004. Providing a truth that cannot be ignored, as you demonstrated during training, is by far the most effective approach to making a point.’

Everything since is a procession of news reports, newspaper headlines and You Tube sound bites from local news organisations: Spectre thwarted at every turn, notable members taking their own lives rather than be captured, turned in by friends and in a couple of cases lovers. From Washington DC to Madrid, Edinburgh to Marseilles, the stories are the same: the first step away from oppression brings freedom, and unexpected consequences. Ronni notes the headline in Le Monde that recruitment to the French Armed Forces is up, that this trend may well be repeated elsewhere. There’s also several stories on a joint British-French security treaty which rings vague bells from a briefing after the capture of Bloefeld. The Gendarmerie had something big up their elegantly tailored sleeves, which MI5 had considerable interest in…

The truth however is inescapable: even if she’d not seen it, the World had changed whilst Ronni had been dead, so much to the better. The sense of calm this instils is the most pleasant of surprises, and far more needed than perhaps at first grasped. This isn’t doing the job and having simple satisfaction in the consequences: life would no longer be the same for millions of people. It would be better: less drama and hardship, oppression and tyranny put on notice. This wasn’t just rhetoric or empty promises either. They’d promised to send a message, and that cry to action was echoing around the planet.

‘You’re weren’t lying to bolster my spirits.’

‘Or indeed to assuage my ego. As you can see, this is the honest truth. We have made considerably more than a difference, and yet nobody will ever know it was us.’

Ronni can’t help but smile at the man next to her, not just because he could conjure up a chocolate mousse out of thin air when she needed it most. It had felt like a fight, place to place, no way of knowing they were changing the course of a campaign that stretched across the globe. To have made such a difference was significant, but there was still much left that qualified as unknown.

‘You said ‘what we know about’ and that means what, exactly?’

‘There’s a great deal on Beam’s hard drive that as yet makes no sense, and I suspect I may need Felix for context. I’m waiting to be advised by London as to what happens next. However, as of about an hour ago, there’s a video on You Tube produced by MI6 that announces a raft of significant changes to the Service. After my death, London have formally announced Rachel Frasier’s been appointed as my very public successor, which is not a total fabrication. What it means is that the cover’s again secure, and the pressure on us is lifted. With Frasier taking centre stage for Quartermaster activity, I can continue my work when we return under far less scrutiny.’

‘Which is what you should be doing and not taking to me.’

‘I liberated a fair few items from Mr Bulgari’s home, including this second machine and some extremely efficient solar power cells. I can work all night should I need to, and it means I’ll be able to expedite the last portion of my mission with far greater speed. However, I have one more birthday gift to offer, should you desire it.’

‘Why am I suddenly nervous, Q?’

‘There’s a US intelligence satellite that passes over us at 21:00 CET which I have an access code for. That will make it 04:00 in Bangkok and I can guarantee Bond won’t be asleep. You could at least say hello, and he gets to wish you Happy Birthday.’

Q’s already getting up, preparing to work for the evening, and Ronni knows how well she’ll sleep before then with a full meal inside her. There’s no argument either: she’ll take the 21:00 watch, and make the decision on whether to talk to Bond or not when the time comes.

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Everything related to James Bond (007) belongs to Eon Productions and Danjaq LLC, except the bits in here that are mine and I made up. I get how this works.

DEFAULT :: Part Forty

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Dinner is finished, and without doubt the best thing Ronni has tasted for a very long time. Warm flatbread with wild garlic and goat’s cheese that Q seemed to have produced from nowhere was followed by a rich and deep Pasta and Game Stew she knows was augmented by a bottle of red wine. Then, presented in bowls made of leaves, unbelievably, was chocolate mousse, and Ronni’s not even going to ask how Andrew pulled that off under their present circumstances. It can remain the culmination of an amazing afternoon, reminder that the man sitting cross legged opposite her on a broken flagstone floor is so much more than a brilliant Civil Service employee.

They sit together in the ruins of this house, late afternoon sun shafting through the rafters, conversation temporarily lost as they’d eaten dessert with Marco Bulgari’s pilfered spoons. No longer two colleagues, this friendship makes both stronger, and that alone makes the remainder of their endeavour more than worthwhile. Except now she knows what he’s thinking, mostly because Ronni refused to vocalise the concern for herself, and had shut him down before the main course had been served. Andrew’s not done with his analysis yet, that much is abundantly apparent.

‘Bond’s regard for you has always been impeccable. Nobody else gets treated quite the same way.’

‘I’m not in love with him, despite what you might think. Using that word in either of our worlds can never be entertained: I’ve seen what happens to him when you introduce commitment to an equation.’

‘And yet, I’d argue that’s what he ultimately craves. You are his barometer, touchstone and when both London and his fiancée appeared to desert him, genuine salvation.’

‘James doesn’t need somebody else to provide any notion of worth. That’s his job. He has to stop and think, eventually, understand that the only way existence ever changes is if he breaks the cycle. He can sleep with whoever he likes, live commitment free ’til he dies, but eventually when it all ends, and it will, the choice is his alone. If he is the job as you say, then that’s a constant since the first day you gave him the number. That is his wife, mistress, and love nobody will ever replace. I crave him, I won’t lie. That support is addictive and when fuelled by him there’s nothing I can’t do. However, without it I can be better, stronger and ultimately free. If the same is true for James, the best thing I’ll ever do is keep him at arm’s length.’

‘Is that the absolute truth?’

‘I’d like a chance to do this properly for a decade, maybe more if my health allows. Assuming we survive this and he finally retires? I could make the difference you told me the Service needed, take what Bond has given me and create something better than this 50 year old standard that the establishment insist stays foremost for everybody. But you know better, and so do I.’

‘You didn’t answer the question, Ronni.’

‘He’s my missing piece. Nobody will ever come close to being what he is to me. I’ll make him wait, insist ways are at least reconsidered. I’d want him to cook like this, but I’d never tie him down or impose choices. In the end, he has to be the one who decides we are in love, and I doubt he’ll ever be able to use that word successfully ever again. Because… you made him too well. His M was the mother craved so badly, still listened to even when she died. I may be the latest constant, but I can’t be Madeline, or Vesper. They’re not me. He has to take me as I am.’

‘You don’t need a man to be complete.’

She can’t respond instantly this time, leaning back against the cooling stone wall. Is Q right? Is that the reason she is what this has now become?

‘I sometimes sit and wonder what would have happened if Scott hadn’t died, what direction my life would have taken. I realise now, I’d never have come this far, I’d be married having never considered my dream as a child: it would have been just that and nothing more. Without love as distraction, so much would have been lost, and I realise that perhaps this is the biggest sacrifice a 00 ever makes in their career. Happiness comes from the relationship with the number. That’s how this works best. For those of us with emotional deficits, there has to be somewhere to make up for the shortfall.’

‘I think Bond could really benefit from hearing that from you. I doubt Gregory imparting that information at this stage would be either useful or productive. Coming from you however, it might effectively register. Would you be prepared to try?’

‘I assumed Bond’s assassination was to show Spectre that 007’s really dead.’

‘That’s not an entirely accurate summation.’

‘Okay, so you have lied to me. Where is he now, exactly?’

‘Bangkok. He and Felix have been removing Spectre’s influence across the far east with customary thoroughness, assisted by Mr Beam’s recently decrypted guide to who’s who in in the villain hierarchy.’

‘I bet Leiter is having the time of his life right now.’

‘He’s liaising between London and Langley as M pretty much refuses to trust anyone else until I can finally decrypt the CIA/FBI joint NOC list. I’m 90% done, if you’ll take the first watch tonight that will be in Washington’s hands before the morning, and once that happens Spectre’s position becomes more than precarious. In fact, with the events of the last seven days?’

‘We get to own the high ground, because I’m betting you know where Christian is?’

‘LaCroix and Moneypenny’s effectiveness as a unit has been a revelation. You were absolutely right, granting them both 00 status was a master stroke. They’ve tracked him to Paris and are currently working with the authorities not only to secure their intelligence services integrity, but to remove any remains of his corruption. Give them another week and at their success rate, we’ll have the enemy in full retreat.’

‘We’ve made a difference?’

‘Me not being locatable thanks to your efforts, and Spectre unable to stop me working in the field means that Venice has been the turning point. Enemy agents have been voluntarily handing themselves into the authorities since it became apparent that we had their measure. London’s been employing some fairly sophisticated counter-intelligence techniques too, as well as the good old fashioned divide and conquer and since we died? Over half of the activity we knew about with a link to the criminal organisation’s been either stalled, thwarted or summarily removed.’

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Everything related to James Bond (007) belongs to Eon Productions and Danjaq LLC, except the bits in here that are mine and I made up. I get how this works.

DEFAULT :: Part Thirty-Nine

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Ronni wakes naturally for the first time in many days, late afternoon sun reflecting through the broken glass of farmhouse windows. Reassuring shards of light scatter across the surprisingly comfortable camp bed, and for a moment she’s back in the Barracks, familiar warmth from brick and earth reassuring a troubled soul. Then reality both of past and present rises to swallow the brief calm: driving away from Marc’s house, crying into Q’s surprisingly solid embrace, hour of revelation before insisting she went and slept. It had been much needed: lying quietly and reflecting on the last weeks alone, even Ronni knew how damaged both mind and body had become. Their thwarting of Spectre at the Violin Museum, the young man’s death in the process plus Q’s breakthrough decrypting Beam’s hard drive meant they’d undoubtedly made a difference. Moving into French territory was academic if they continued in the stolen vehicle, but Ronni’s not sure she wants to draw any more attention to their movements. Uncertain of what Marc would now do knowing she’d taken gross advantage of his generosity, leaving his four wheel drive here and continuing on foot might yet be their best course of action.

They’d done well however: he’d not been joking when bragging over the starter that his ‘complex’ was prepared for any eventuality. The new camp beds were light enough to be carried, canned food and water in plentiful supply so they could last at least another three days before needing to be conspicuous… and suddenly Ronni is distracted, smell wafting from outside that immediately sets her taste buds alight. Immediate fears are forgotten, enough to pull aching body up outside to the high walled garden behind the farmhouse, and to Q, whose latest excursion into outdoor living is ambitious even by his standards.

‘What on earth are you cooking?’

Her travelling companion stands, clearly beyond proud of himself in a kitchen that is so Heath Robinson in both construction and layout it almost defies belief.

‘I am not simply cooking, Veronica, I am creating. It has been a long time since I enjoyed myself so much with something other than a computer.’

There is what is undoubtedly a well made fire under a carefully-constructed pile of stones, large, flat metal door from something in the wreck of this house being utilised as an impromptu hotplate. From somewhere Q’s obtained a pan, and at least one decent knife: on the ‘stove’ sits and simmers a substantive portion of what Ronni would guess is game of some variety by the smell, probably trapped and skinned by the man himself. There’s pasta in the mix, plus bundles of freshly-gathered leaves and berries sit waiting to be prepared…

‘How on earth-?’

‘I knew today would be significant, after what happened at the Museum, understand enough about employee motivation to grasp that it being your birthday… the occasion should warrant at least something special.’

‘Where did you learn to do all this?’

‘It may come as something of a surprise, but I was a boy scout back in the day, and rather a damn good one as it happens. I was able to pay other people to carry my bags if I cooked for them. I find this kind of outdoor challenge rather exhilarating’

‘Why did you not say this before?’

‘Because being in the field isn’t a contest, and you needed things to do as distraction. I assure you it wasn’t to conform to gender roles. I just like to hide my skills whenever possible.’

‘Why am I not surprised at this one little bit?’

She’d assumed Q had forgotten, or simply decided not to rub salt into her wounds when already low. Daydreaming as distraction as she’d walked to Marc’s house, that if this were just a bad dream she’d have spent her birthday grabbing a spa treatment, eating cake with Moneypenny, but how deep down there’d be the inescapable ache of regret that this year she was alone. However hard Ronni tries, Bond refuses to leave her. His taste now is diesel: inescapable dirty Viennese water, adrenaline mixed with blood, panic inescapable. His hand, around hers, brush of brilliant possibility devolved into anger and confusion. The ache is so fresh and raw it catches her off guard, closing eyes to prevent more tears because she has to prove she wasn’t lying when maintaining this wasn’t love. Need perhaps, desire quite distinctly, but he was never the happy ending she craved. The job was her wage, keeping Q alive her payoff.

Bond was simply the thing she wanted but must never keep, because when that happened, then there was no need in being the number any more.

‘I’d like to keep the contents of dinner as a surprise for a little longer, if I may? Perhaps you could start packing up the rucksacks for tomorrow, as I’m going to assume you’d like to continue on foot and not risk the use of the four wheel drive?’

If he were here, would Bond be cooking, she wonders, would he have possessed the foresight to create something so amazing and uplifting? In this case, he could learn from Q, that this would be the way to show that really, finally, something significant had been grasped about how to treat a woman. But this was folly, idle thought no longer relevant or required. The Quartermaster was pushing her back to the moment, and that’s where she needed to exist.

‘I like the fact I don’t have to remind you of process, that normally you’re one step ahead of me. On days like today, your organisational skill is positively inspirational, Q.’

‘Andrew. My name is Andrew, and I think we have passed the point where I have the right to be considered your superior, at least in the field. I think after everything that has transpired, I’d rather regard you as my friend.’

Ronni stares and realises that her boss just stopped being a letter, and that this makes her happier than she believed was currently possible. Without hesitation they hug, gesture that is returned this time without either hesitation or care. There might be those who’d argue to survive in such situations that the last thing you needed was any emotional attachment to the people you were protecting, but in this case 004 wasn’t one of them.

Right now, this was exactly what she craved.

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Everything related to James Bond (007) belongs to Eon Productions and Danjaq LLC, except the bits in here that are mine and I made up. I get how this works.